Archives For June 2011

Ken Berger of CBS Sports – who has been covering the CBA negotiations as well as anyone – broke the news with a simple tweet not too long ago:

BREAKING: Owners have informed players they are locking out.

So here we are. The players union and owners haven’t found a middle ground on a labor agreement and we all suffer for it (and not only us, but a laundry list of employees from every team and arena as well as those in other professions whose positions are influenced by the operation of a multi-billion dollar sports league). And while we all saw this coming, it doesn’t make it any less a frustrating and sad day for basketball fans.

If you’d like some good reading on the issues, as well as proposals, here you go:

We’ll have much more on the lockout and the league in general as we learn more. But for now, treat this as your official lock out thread.

In his own words, Ron explains this thought process behind his decision to change his name. Highlights include him hoping for the name on the back of his jersey to be “World Peace” and that he’s already had people approaching him calling him by his soon to be legal name.

For what it’s worth, I can’t wait until next season when I get to write game previews and recaps with lines about “World Peace knocking a player to the floor while chasing a rebound” or that the Lakers should “look to take advantage of World Peace’s advantage in the low post against a smaller defender” or post a picture with the subtitle “Metta Bicep Kiss”.

Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  June 29, 2011
  • Yesterday, the Lakers draft picks were introduced to the media after playing some scrimmages as part of the team’s free agent mini-camp. From that media access, we learned some interesting tidbits. Like how Darius Morris is already used to playing in front of Denzel Washington and that Andrew Goudelock doesn’t want to be called “goldilocks”.
  • What we also learned is that both players are humble yet confident. They understand that they’ll need to work hard to earn a spot but also see opportunity to compete and contribute with this team. I’m not sure I see either playing any kind of major role with this team next season, but it’s good to hear that they believe they can and that they’re willing to work to make it happen.
  • Yesterday we took a look at some free agents that could potentially be had for minimum dollars. In response to that, commenter DY mentioned former Warrior and Knick Kelenna Azubuike as another potential wing to bring in who could compete for a roster spot as a back up SG. I bring this up now because he’s an excellent name to keep tabs on as the summer progresses. He’s had a myriad of injury issues and who knows if he’ll be able to play next year. But, if healthy, he’s a good shooter, plays hard on both ends, and is the type of solid role player that you win with.
  • Not to be hard on Kevin Durant (I have the utmost respect for him and his game), but if this report is true I’m not sure what to think besides he needs to know these things. Especially as his team’s player rep.
  • What better way to celebrate the lockout than with the official Champagne of the NBA?
  • Here’s an interesting read touching on JJ Barrea and Shannon Brown and how, despite his faults, the Lakers may miss Shannon Brown should he depart in free agency.
  • Any analysis of Brown is interesting because he does bring traits to the Lakers (namely athleticism, durability, ability to create his own shot) that are positive ingredients to this team. However, his penchant for making little mistakes on both sides of the ball (like over-dribbling on O or going under screens on shooters on D) drove me crazier in each successive game. So, it’s a bit of a catch-22 with Shannon. I like what he brings to the team but want him to cut out those parts of his game that frustrate me so much. In the end, I wouldn’t mind having him back, but I’d also love a viable alternative should he deserve a trip to the dog house. Ultimately, he’s the type of player that makes enough plays where you feel you’ll miss him if he’s gone while also being average enough that you can’t believe relying on him is a good idea. Sigh.
  • Suffice to say, with no summer league and the potential for a prolonged lockout, we’re all going to have some time on our hands. So, does anyone have any good books they could recommend? Fiction or non-fiction, sports or non-sports related, it doesn’t really matter to me. I’m easily entertained.

Window Shopping

Darius Soriano —  June 28, 2011

The draft is over and the Lakers snagged two guard prospects they hope can make their team next year. That said, the Lakers nowhere near being finished completing their roster as relying on 2nd round picks to contribute to a championship contender isn’t what smart organizations do.

So, there is much work still to be done. Normally at this time of the year we’d be exploring free agent options and identifying who the Lakers could potentially sign and how those players could help the team win next year. But, ongoing labor negotiations and pending lockout have put that on hold for front offices around the league.

Even with that being the case, we’d be remiss if we still didn’t look at who this summer’s free agents are and who could be a good fit with the Lakers. You can bet the Lakers have identified targets to try and sign once a deal is struck between the owners and the players, so we too will look at what options are out there.

First, some caveats:

  • While I’m looking at the entire list of free agents, I’m zeroing in on unrestricted free agents that are have either already exercised player options to opt out or whose contracts have already expired.
  • I’m operating under the assumption that Shannon Brown will opt out of his contract and test the market.
  • With Mitch Kupchak openly denying he’s shopping players while also expressing confidence in the “core” of this team, I’m looking primarily at players that can play shooting guard and ones that can be the 4th big man (preferably a center or someone that can swing between PF and C, though this is not mandatory). 
  • I’m looking solely at players that I think will play for the veteran’s minimum as the likelihood of their being a mid-level exception in the next CBA is not clear and I’d prefer to only look at players that could come cheaply yet still contribute.

Now, on to the list:

  • Shannon Brown, SG: It seems strange that he’d return to the Lakers if he opts out of his contract, but one never knows how the market will treat Brown. There’s familiarity here and if Shannon doesn’t find a deal to his liking or a role that he thinks he can grow in, he may see if a return to the Lakers is his best option. While I’d bet against all of this happening should he actually opt out, he would, theoretically, be an option here.
  • Mike Dunleavy, SG/SF: Dunleavy is a tricky call here because he’d likely command more money on the open market. But, he’s played on losing teams his entire career and may enjoy playing for a contender like the Lakers even if it means taking less money. Dunleavy’s a good shooter (40% on threes last year) and has some ability to create off the dribble in both isolation and P&R’s. He’s seen as an underachiever for most of his career, but as a 4th guard playing 18-22 minutes a game, he could be a very good player.
  • Michael Redd, SG: Redd’s coming off multiple knee surgeries over the past two seasons and his injury history will scare a lot of teams away. However, he’s a very good shooter that before he was hurt played for Team USA and was a perennial all-star candidate.
  • Tracy McGrady, SG/PG/SF: McGrady showed that he was sufficiently recovered from his knee issues last season to be a surprise contributor to the Pistons. He showed good playmaking skills as a PG and should come cheap. At this point in his career, he could certainly play 15-20 minutes a game as someone that sets up his mates and takes smaller defenders into the post. His jumper is still only okay, but he’s enough of an offensive threat to still be taken seriously.
  • Sasha Vujacic, SG: Don’t discount the Machine, here. He’s still a descent shooter and is familiar with the team dynamics in Los Angeles. Yes, he fell out of favor with the last coaching staff (and was overpaid), but those coaches are now all gone and he should come cheaply.
  • Kwame Brown, C: Yes, another former Laker on this list. I know many have a visceral reaction to Kwame whenever he’s brought up, but his skill set matches what the Lakers need here. He plays good post defense, is durable, rebounds well, sets good screens and would come cheap. Plus, by all accounts, his former teammates from the Lakers (many of whom are still here) liked him a great deal.
  • Dan Gadzuric, C: The former UCLA product is available is actually a good fit here. He has size, tries on defense, and is an adequate rebounder. In 3 of the last 4 years he’s averaged around 10 minutes a game and has never been an issue in the locker room. As a fourth big man, the Lakers could do worse.
  • Kyrylo Fesnko, C: He has excellent size (7’1″, 280lbs) is young (24 years old) and is a good athlete. He’s a presence around the rim on defense and consistently works hard on both ends of the floor. If he’d sign for the minimum, I’d be more than happy to have him as a 10-12 minute a night player to spell Bynum and/or keep Pau’s minutes at Center to a minimum.
  • Kenyon Martin, PF: There’s some overlap here as he’s strictly a PF and couldn’t play C unless the team went really small. However, he’s aggressive on the glass is a versatile defender (he can switch P&R’s and cover wings for a possession or two) and is physically imposing. I’m not sure if he’d really fit as the 4th big on this team, but he’d be a good pick up that could provide energy for 15 minutes a night and could step in for longer should he be needed.

There are more players to look at, but this is our first stab at it. There are lots of intriguing names to consider and many that could step in next season and help this team. And while there won’t be a rush this Friday to snatch these guys up, it’s good to do some window shopping now to get familiar with who is available how they may fit.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Assuming we’re all translating his comments to in Puerto Rico, yes. His strong preference, expressed both by Barea in the story above and his agent Dan Fegan, is to remain with Dallas, which I suspect will happen no matter what rules are in place whenever the players and owners finally agree on a new CBA. Acquiring Rudy Fernandez on draft night hedges against, or perhaps guarantees, the loss of either or both Peja Stojakovic, DeShawn Stevenson, but does nothing to provide Dallas credible backup to Jason Kidd in the absence of Barea. Combined with the normal desire to keep the band together when defending a title, the fact Barea played well for the Mavs this season and crushed it in the playoffs, his high degree of popularity in Dallas, and that Mark Cuban would just as soon gnaw off his own arm before losing Barea to a team like the Lakers, and the likelihood he re-ups with Dallas rises even more.

From Wild Yams, Silver Screen and Roll: The next player up in our Player Report Card series is backup point guard Steve Blake.  Steve was signed by the Lakers almost a year ago on July 8th, 2010 to a 4-year contract worth $16 million.  Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers brought Blake to the team to fill the void left by the Lakers choosing to not re-sign Jordan Farmar, who went on to sign as a free agent with the New Jersey nets after spending his first five seasons with LA.  Blake was brought to LA because he was supposed to provide some of what the talented but inconsistent Farmar could not.  Blake was supposed to be a steady veteran who could hit spot up three-pointers, who could help run the triangle offense and distribute the ball, and who could play some defense.  And mainly Blake was brought in to help take some of the minutes away from aging starting point guard, Derek Fisher.  As we all know, things didn’t quite go as planned.

From Chris Shellcroft, Lake Show Life: Barring a miraculous occurrence it seems all but certain that disaster will strike this week. Unlike the NFL there is no billion dollar pie to argue over. The NBA pie is more like a burnt pizza that has small market owners fighting over charred crumbs. Thus a lockout is the only tool owners have at their disposal to reassert themselves as beneficiaries of the business of basketball. There is no way of knowing what kind of a summer we’re in for. Given the fact that there doesn’t appear to be much urgency to try and avoid a work stoppage I’m guessing we could see a big portion of the 2011-12 season canceled. But here at LSL we prefer to look at things from a positive perspective.

From Steve Aschburner, David Stern finally exhaled. The lights and cameras had clicked off. Another update on the NBA’s collective bargaining talks was done. Stern, the league’s commissioner, gazed at the table top where he sat and to no one in particular said, “I’m tired.” Moments earlier, he had joked about the rigorous turnaround in his work schedule: Traveling over to Newark to emcee a global telecast of the 2011 NBA Draft on Thursday, working the “room” of the Prudential Center through the first round amid catcalls from some beery fans, then skedaddling home to prep for Friday’s latest longish session of collective bargaining talks with the players association. It was the biggest meeting yet, with an estimated 40 additional players attending with the usual owners, lawyers and executives.

From Mike Trudell, Basket Blog: Growing up playing in the parks of Hawthorne, Inglewood, Compton and Long Beach, Darius Morris never imagined that one day he’d hear his name called at the NBA Draft with the words “Los Angeles Lakers select” in front of them. Morris joined us on Friday afternoon while still in New York with his family to detail his background, share his emotions on draft night and what it could be like guarding Kobe Bryant on the first day of training camp: Q: On when he had his first thought of making the NBA one day: Morris: Around the time I was 9 or 10 years old I started playing organized basketball with a team in Los Angeles called ABA hoops, and we went to nationals and played against the best team at the time. Team Maryland ended up winning, but we still performed, we were right there. My dad looked at me in the eye one day and told me, you can make it. He’s just always supported me whatever I wanted to do.

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: The NBA owners have to be smarter than this. The NBA players have to be smarter than this. he NBA commissioner, most of all, has to be smarter than this. Hello, David Stern? You still awake? You are smarter than this, right? Stern graduated from Rutgers University and Columbia Law School, has been an attorney since 1966 and began a working relationship with the NBA 45 years ago. In other words, he has been attached to the league longer than the NBA’s famous logo has been attached to the league. When Stern did his first work for the NBA as a lawyer, there were 10 teams playing, Ronald Reagan had just been elected governor of California and gas was 32 cents a gallon. Somewhere along the way, Stern must have learned that, for everything the NBA has grown up to become today, it still very much isn’t one thing: The NFL.